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Current Tracking on Effectiveness and Mechanisms of Acupuncture Therapy: A Literature Review of High-Quality Studies

Abstract

The scientific evidence of acupuncture studies has been improved in recent years, and one of the important manifestations is that more and more acupuncture clinical trials and mechanism researches have been published in the source periodicals of Science Citation Index (SCI). This study summarized the dominant diseases of acupuncture focusing on of acupuncture efficacy and mechanisms, and discussed the existing problems, highlighting the direction of future developments. Most clinical studies were published in journals with journal impact factor (JIF) score of 10 or above, and majority of the basic researches had JIF scores of 5 to 10. The above literature were further divided according to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The most concerned diseases in these articles were neurological diseases, musculoskeletal system and connective tissue diseases, tumor and digestive system diseases. The therapeutic effect and mechanism of acupuncture on each kind of disease were summarized. The results showed that the therapeutic effect of acupuncture on nerve injury focused on the anti-oxidation pathway, neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory processes. The antiinflammatory effect also played an important role in the treatment of musculoskeletal diseases. The analgesic effect was underlined in most of these studies. Clinical trials were well carried out on acupuncture curative effect of tumor complications and side effects of chemo-radiotherapy, but the potential mechanisms have not been clarified. Somato-visceral reflex was suggested to be strongly associated with the effects of acupuncture changing the motor activity of the gastrointestinal tract. Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies indicated that non-specific effects play important roles in acupuncture analgesia. Lines of evidence have pointed out that the regulation of neuro-endocrine-immune networks may be a common switch of acupuncture on different nerve system diseases.

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Contributions

Yang FM, Yao L and Xu ZF drafted the manuscript and revising it. Yang FM, Guo Y, Wang SJ and Xu ZF participated in the design of the study. Zhang K and Guo Y participated in the retrieval of literature. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Zhi-fang Xu.

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The authors have no conflict of interests in this paper.

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Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 81704146, 81503637 and 81503636), the Natural Science Foundation of Tianjin (No. 16JCYBJC43500)

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Yang, Fm., Yao, L., Wang, Sj. et al. Current Tracking on Effectiveness and Mechanisms of Acupuncture Therapy: A Literature Review of High-Quality Studies. Chin. J. Integr. Med. 26, 310–320 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11655-019-3150-3

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Keywords

  • acupuncture
  • clinical trials
  • mechanism
  • anti-inflammation
  • neuro-endocrine-immune network